Sunday morning got off to a peaceful start with the sun shining, campers smiling, and donuts at breakfast. After flag raising, our chapel theme today was Individuality, and was led by our Senior line. Speakers were asked “what does individuality mean to you?,” and several cabins led songs along the same theme. It was apt to have the teenage seniors lead this chapel since they have had the most experience learning to be themselves at camp.
One speaker explained that, to her, you need to be comfortable enough first before expressing yourself. This idea of comfort stuck with me, because it illustrates the feeling that is needed in order for you to share who you are. You can be comfortable in your own skin, but perhaps not comfortable in your surrounding environment. Both levels of comfort are essential in order to express your individuality, and at camp we strive to cultivate an accepting, loving environment in which girls can freely be themselves.
Outside of camp, we are all faced with pressures to act, dress, speak, or be a certain way. Expectations from school, peers, family, or society as a whole can weaken our desire to truly express ourselves. Whether this pressure comes from an internal or external source, it influences our actions and thoughts all the same. At Rockbrook, we try to minimize these pressures. Part of our mission “is to provide a haven for girls, a place of their own.” We aim to provide a place where girls can practice being their own person—a space to be your most genuine self.
This afternoon, campers had a chance to practice just this at our Miss RBC talent show! Each cabin gets an opportunity to get on the stage in the gym and share a special talent. Some cabins create songs, dances, or even a non-talent talent show skit! Every act is unique, silly, and creative, showcasing the diversity of imaginations amongst the campers. The variety of costumes (avocados and tutus), goofy answers to questions (“dirt” as a new Dolly’s ice cream flavor), and the laughs from the audience (good-natured and frequent) were proof that Rockbrook is a place for girls to be their most unabashed, genuine selves.
Sunday mornings begin at a more relaxed pace compared to the rest of the week. We all sleep in an extra few minutes and then arrive for breakfast in pajamas… no worries about being dressed with cabin chores done beforehand. Also on Sunday, it’s been a long standing treat to serve fresh donuts along with our breakfast, having a little taste of the outside world. Then there’s cabin time for changing into our uniforms (white with a red tie) before assembling on the hill for flag raising. The Hi-Ups do the honors of presenting and raising the flag. Immediately afterwards, everyone walks down the lower line of cabins to the wooded amphitheater where we hold our Chapel program.
Today the Middler campers and some of their counselors presented a program on “Nature.” Like all of our chapel programs, this gathering was not a religious ceremony, but instead an opportunity to identify and reflect upon a core value or experience we all share at camp. In the past, we’ve held chapel programs on friendship, kindness, gratitude, community, and compassion for example. This morning we took time to consider our relationship with the natural world.
We sang “Tell me Why,” a slightly modified lyric to “Country Roads,” (“Almost Heaven, Rockbrook Camp..”) and “What a Wonderful World,” accompanied by Tunde on guitar and Isa playing ukulele. We heard short readings on Nature selected by campers Sidney, E.A., Amelia, and Elizabeth.
Camper K.P. read a short reflection she wrote about her feelings in Nature and its importance to all of us. She said,
Nature is all around us. It is a big part of Rockbrook and it has a role in almost everything we do here. Rafting the Nantahala, hiking to Castle Rock, even dinner on the hill: Nature is a way of life around Rockbrook and we all live it.
Sometimes it is calming to just sit on the Hillside Lodge porch and look down at the garden, watch campers play in the creek, and see the girls splashing around in the lake. The serene setting of Rockbrook on a North Carolina mountain surrounded by trees and species of plants is the nicest place I know.
Sarah echoed this sentiment by reading the illustrated children’s book, “You Are Never Alone” by Elin Kelsey. This is a wonderful reminder of how nature touches almost every aspect of our lives, that “this beautiful planet showers [us] with gifts” in so many ways. The book illustrates how nature supports and at times heals us, how it stimulates our emotions, sense of wonder and imagination. Quite literally, Nature helps us be human. Much like what we enjoy at Rockbrook, it is a “warm, supportive, community that is always there for [us].” Sarah added how lucky we are at camp to experience the plants and animals of the forest (yes, even the “sprickets”) so intimately, feeling the joys of Nature without a care in the world. This message really resonated with the girls, many of them nodding their heads in agreement as she read the book. Good stuff!
Lunch was another incredible meal prepared by Rick and his kitchen crew— roasted, dry-rubbed chicken breasts, fingerling potatoes, and honey-glazed, oven-roasted Brussel sprouts, with fresh blackberries and whipped cream for dessert. Amazing! The food at Rockbrook always gets high marks, and with meals like this, you can easily see why!
Our all-camp afternoon activity was a wild carnival of events down at the landsports field. With fun music pumping, and different snacks to keep us going, the girls enjoyed group games and challenges related to the theme of “food.” For example, one event challenged the girls to eat a doughnut dangling from the end of a string without using their hands. Similarly, another challenge required the girls to peel a banana (first cut in half) using only their feet. We used actual pieces of corn on the cob to play games of corn hole. The girls took turns making “pies” of whipped cream to toss at their counselors. There was a “grit pit,” a literal pool of warm grits, to experience. There were cookies to decorate, and beaded composting “worms” to make. One game was particularly fun, a challenge to use only rubber bands to break open a watermelon. They girls worked together stretching two or three rubber bands at a time over each watermelon, gradually adding to the band’s total pressure. There was only a small crack forming to warn them before the melon exploded to bits leaving a ball of sticky rubber bands behind. It was very exciting, and the kind of big crazy fun, we love at camp.
Sundays at Rockbrook provide us with a moment to catch our breath. After a very full week of riding horses, weaving on Inkle looms, taking the polar plunge, zipping across camp, and hitting tetherballs, it is welcome (and necessary!) to take a little break.
On Sundays we sleep in a little later and enjoy breakfast in our pajamas.Afterwards we take some time to clean our cabins, put on our uniforms, and get ready for flag-raising and chapel.For many girls, these ceremonies are so special because they are a different time at camp, a little quieter, a little more serious.The silent walk to chapel provides a chance for girls to hear the sounds at camp that are often overwhelmed by happy chatter, shrieks, and singing.Girls start to notice the birdsong, feel the sun’s rays, maybe even get a sprinkle of rain on them.After arriving at the rustic clearing in the woods that was selected by campers nearly 100 years ago, girls learn the theme for chapel that week.Our chapel services are not religious services, but rather quiet, thought-provoking times at camp.The girls participate by choice, and they may lead songs, read poems, and share thoughts that have to do with the weekly theme.
This week, our theme was “Gratitude.” Girls quickly caught on to the theme by expressing how lucky they felt to have the opportunity to spend time in this beautiful setting, living closely with so many fun and interesting people.Many girls recognized that coming to camp has been a gift for them from another person. We read the book “The Secret of Saying Thanks” by Douglas Wood together.The book helped draw attention to the many simple gifts around us all of the time at camp – from the beauty of flowers, the shade of trees, the silence of mountains, the life of waters.In closing, the book teaches that a grateful heart is a happy one.The campers really embraced the teachings of this book.After chapel one of our campers wrote her thoughts about Rockbrook:
I stumbled upon it by chance; this place that my great-aunt, grandmother, and aunt all loved before me.
And now, there is no sound that I love more than the bell’s peal mingling with laughter,
No sight I love more than a girl tying the friendship knot on a first-year camper’s tie,
No taste I love more than fresh donuts on Sunday morning, broken and shared between friends,
No smell I love more than the last wisps of smoke from a spirit fire candle,
And no feeling I love more than the warmth of a hug that I know means farewell,
But not goodbye.…
We still have a few more days before our farewells, and we are grateful for all ofthese fun and happy moments together.
Welcome friends! Welcome to the group of campers who arrived this morning to begin their session at Rockbrook. We’re all very happy to have you arrive, and are just as excited as you are to get started. Finally, the agonizing wait… all summer! …is over and you can meet all the great people here and begin exploring the many different things available to do at camp. The beautiful weather this morning added to the enthusiastic mood, and I suspect made the arrival and check-in process run even more smoothly. All 84 of the girls arriving were quickly settled in the cabins and happily touring the camp with their bunkmates before noon— checking out the different activity areas, trying things out a little (making a simple friendship bracelet, for example), and having their questions answered by staff members. Part of this tour involved a scavenger hunt where the new girls collected different colored bracelets hidden at different landmarks around the camp, like the gym, the flagpole, and the infirmary. It was a fun way to get to know each other, learn more about Rockbrook, and be active right away after arriving.
Let me mention the Chapel gathering that also happened this morning for the full session girls. At Rockbrook, these Sunday morning events are intended to provide an opportunity to slow down and reflect on some of the principles and values that help shape our camp community. Camp is mostly about big fun, but it’s also about so many other important things, it’s good to pause and discuss what we’re learning along the way. These Chapel gatherings are not religious services, though, and they do not refer explicitly to any religious texts or doctrines. Instead, the events focus on broader themes that can be understood and appreciated by any religious tradition. The campers themselves plan and present the songs and poems they think illustrate the theme, and Sarah always reads a short children’s book she thinks is relevant.
So today’s chapel theme was, “We’re all in this together,” a recognition of community and the importance of including each other. Sarah read the book Odd Velvet by Mary E. Whitcomb to show how someone (or something) who first appears strange, can turn out to be wonderful, interesting and make all our experience more rewarding and fun. Whether considering new foods, activities, or even new campers arriving today, our community impulse to be accepting and curious is something we value here at Rockbrook. As we begin with kindness, compassion, and generosity, we foster the sort of positive relationships that cement our camp community. Including those different from ourselves is a simple extension of those values.
We took time after lunch to orient all of the newly arrived campers to the waterfront, and to allow the lifeguards to evaluate everyone’s swimming ability. The cold mountain water of our lake, its different depths and diversions— the water slide and diving board for example —can be challenging for certain swimmers, so we ask all the girls to show us they can swim and tread water comfortably before letting them take full advantage of the waterfront. The girls earn one of three colored “swim necklaces” to indicate their swimming ability and corresponding lake activity. The weakest swimmers can still come down and cool off in the lake, but we require them to remain in the shallow area where they can stand up, and to wear a life jacket while in the water. With everyone’s buddy tags labeled with their name and proudly hung on the tag board, it was next time for the big all-camp afternoon event.
Jedi Training Academy! Tapping into all things Star Wars related, we held a carnival combining costumes (of course!), music, dancing, surprising challenge games with prizes, and an unlimited supply of snow cones grinding out of our snow cone machine. We also arranged for two huge inflatables: an obstacle course called “Leaps and Bounds” that reminded everyone of “American Ninja Warrior,” and a 25-foot tall water slide that let two girls slide at the same time racing.
The senior campers, with some help from their counselors, helped run the event, teaching and explaining the 10 different stations like “Pin the saber on Yoda,” “Death Star Destruction,” “Defeat Darth” with an arrow dipped in paint, a “Mars Matching” game, face painting (“The Face is with You”), a light saber duel that involved balancing on a slippery beam, and a way to make a light saber using a rod of foam and different colored tape. With snow cone in hand, the girls had a great time zipping between activity stations, cooling off on the water slide, and dancing and posing for photos in their costumes. Of course, Princess Leia (actually several of them) made an appearance, along with Darth Vader, Rey, Chewbacca, and a couple of storm troopers. Many girls wore a Star Wars t-shirt too. Two hours seemed to fly by, every minute filled by smiling energized girls. An active Sunday afternoon, just how we like it.
This Sunday’s chapel set the perfect tone going into the last week of camp for our Second Session campers. The theme was “We’re All in This Together.” Yes, it may sound like one of our favorite High School Musical songs (which was, indeed, performed during the service), but it was an opportunity to remind ourselves of the family that exists for us at camp even after we leave, as we get ready to say goodbye.
Forever friendship is a an undeniably powerful, recurring aspect of camp. Just listen to a few of our songs: “And when we say farewell, it shall not mean goodbye. The spark we lit at Rockbrook we know in ages ne’er will die;” “Turn around and we are strangers, turn around and we are friends, turn around and we are sisters forever to be.”
An important part of this connection between Rockbrook girls that was talked about in chapel is that we don’t have to see each other that often to maintain this bond. Also, because of the shared treasured experiences that we’ve all had, sometimes we don’t need to know each other very well at first to feel like sisters. For instance, I’m thrilled to meet Rockbrook girls at reunions or run into them outside of camp, because I know that this person just gets it. Without being particularly similar at all, there’s a little spark when you’re together and you both know you’re on the same team. Like a camper said during chapel, “After you leave camp, you know there’s a Rockbrook family who’s always going to have your back.”
But don’t just take my word for it! Read a speech from one of our older campers, Annie, who was selected by her counselors to speak about the theme:
Hi. If you don’t already know me, my name is Annie and this is my 8th year at camp. When asked to speak today about the theme, “We’re all in this together,” I suppose you could say that I was hesitant. Not because I didn’t have anything to say or because I don’t believe this theme applies to camp, which I do by the way. The real reason I was hesitant is due to having too much to say and not enough time or courage to stand in front of you to recite the past 8 wonderful years to y’all.
When thinking about this theme though, I feel the necessity to look back to my first day as a Rockbrook girl and how I was embraced into the welcoming, compassionate, and completely understanding community. I was just another 7 year old who was afraid of her own shadow, a complete homebody, and was unwilling to personally embrace the change of environments away from all I knew. This all changed when I immediately entered a circle of friendship and all my doubts dissipated. I soon learned that my cabin mates were going through the same experiences as me of leaving home, being placed into new circumstances, as well as being taken in with open arms. That was my first realization at camp that I was not alone, but that we are all in this together.
When I think of camp, I think of a community and a family. We have an unspoken code between friends and family, through the thick and thin of life. Rockbrook girls have stuck together since 1921. Generations of girls connected spanning the globe. Remember to embrace one another, look at each other with compassion, and most importantly remember that we’re all in this together, whatever that may be. Rockbrook girls stick together.
We all look forward to Sundays at Rockbrook, and for several reasons. First, Sundays are a day when we get to sleep in; the rising bell rings and we wake up at 9 instead of 8am. After our active week, a little extra rest this morning was a good and well-appreciated thing. The treat continues when the girls can come to breakfast in their pajamas, essentially roll out of bed, put on a sweatshirt or robe if it’s feeling chilly, and shuffle to the dining hall through the fog (both literally and figuratively!). This morning, in addition to the eggs, bagels and cream cheese, fruit, granola and yogurt, we enjoyed sweet Krispy Kreme donuts, another Sunday tradition at camp. Rick even had a tray of special gluten-free donuts for the girls who required or preferred that.
About an hour after breakfast, at 11am, the Hi-Up campers (10th graders) presented their flag raising ceremony out on the hill. Raising the flag ceremonially, including reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing America the Beautiful has been a long tradition at camp also. The whole camp dresses in their uniform and then creates a u-shaped formation around our flagpole. Today the sun was bright making our red and white uniforms look great on the green grassy hill.
Immediately afterwards, everyone walks silently in a single file line to the outdoor amphitheater for our weekly “chapel” assembly. For us, this is a moment of calm in our week to reflect a bit about core principles, values and ideas, rather than a religious ceremony of some kind. The campers themselves select a theme and then design a program that usually includes songs, poems and stories that illustrate the theme, with some time reserved for Sarah to add her thoughts. Today, our theme was “Special Places” and the girls talked about what makes certain places more special than others identifying the importance of friends, feeling at ease, and fond memories. They said special places don’t have to be fancy or far away; they can be your back yard or a special tree. Sarah read the book Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel which beautifully describes that exact idea! I’m sure the girls enjoyed thinking about where their special place or places might be.
Our Sunday lunch, which is always something special, was another impressive presentation by Rick, the Rockbrook chef and kitchen manager. Beginning early in the morning, he made pan after pan of homemade lasagna, baking the layers of pasta, marinara sauce, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. With heaping bowls of salad and bread to complement, there was nothing but rave reviews about our midday meal.
An all-camp event for the afternoon is another typical Sunday activity at Rockbrook, and today we held an exciting tournament of games and relays, the “Red Bird Olympics.” First we divided all the campers into three teams, being careful to distribute the age groups, and then gave each team a bottle of washable paint to identify/decorate themselves— one red, white, and blue (The 4th of July is just two days away after all!). Take a look at the photo gallery to see how that turned out— everyone had their team’s color painted on them somewhere, maybe just a stripe on an arm or across a cheek, but in some cases much more!
Every camper participated in at least one of the relay events. Two were about careful tossing and catching: one with raw eggs and the other with water balloons. Girls on the same team would toss, and if successfully catch, they would step back to toss again from a greater distance. This continued until only one pair remained successful. Another challenge had the girls searching for a piece of gum hidden in a pie pan full of flour. We had a crazy sponge relay where members of each team raced back and forth carrying a soaked sponge, transferring water from one tub to a smaller bucket.
One station was the lake where we held 3 different relays. One was an exciting greased watermelon race that required the girls to propel a greasy watermelon through the water without using their arms or hands. The second involved transferring a t-shirt from person to person after swimming a distance, and the last involved girls covering themselves with shaving cream and then sliding down the water slide. All three were definitely silly, but also crazy exciting to watch.
In fact, that’s a good part of the fun— cheering on your teammates as they tackle the challenges of the games. The girls made up cheers for their teams, jumping and screaming in support. The cheering was absolutely wild during the “human knot” event.
In the end, we weren’t sure which team actually “won” the Olympics because we didn’t keep score. I suppose we could have, but how would that matter? Like so much at Rockbrook, for these games too, the fun was in the doing not in the measuring of what’s done.
After dinner and spending some time signing up for a new set of activities that will start in the morning, all the girls grabbed their crazy creek chairs or sleeping bags and pillows to head down to the gym for a movie. We first danced to a few pop songs while everyone was arriving, watched a fun animated short film called Presto, and then enjoyed the Pixar feature film Inside Out. Gathered together and relaxing this way was a nice close to our very full day at camp.
Sundays at Rockbrook are a wonderful mix of relaxing, contemplative, messy, and wild. We broke with our “normal” schedule of activities and trips, of course. We began with a rising bell at 9:00 AM, sleeping in a whole hour later, to stagger right to breakfast. The campers indulged in skipping morning chores and finding Krispy Kreme donuts waiting for them on their tables.
While some would argue that sleeping in is the best part of the Sunday schedule, I love the flag raising on the hill conducted by our oldest campers, the Hi-Ups. We begin by circling around the flagpole, and today we were met with a warm breeze and sunshine. In line with tradition, the girls pledge allegiance to the flag and then sing “America the Beautiful” before filing to chapel in respectful silence. The CA’s, who use the last cabin on the walk to chapel to plan the end-of-session Banquet, all stand in front of their secret space to guard it.
Today’s chapel theme was “Special Places,” and it was camper-led, from the programs’ art to the agenda inside of it. The Junior and Middler campers used the week to plan which songs, speakers, quotes, poems, and stories to include. One camper brought tears to our eyes as she spoke about happiness as a special place, in light of the normal ups and downs of life. Many talked about why Rockbrook was theirs: They can be themselves, are relieved of the pressures and routines of home or school, and make long-lasting friendships.
We followed this low-key morning with a hearty, thanksgiving-style lunch. (There was turkey, cranberry sauce, lima beans, potatoes, and tofu for the vegetarians. Everyone loved it so much that we sang our special song of appreciation to the cooks!) Good thing the girls had bellies full of food… After rest hour, we surprised them with a special scavenger hunt that had them zigzagging all over camp looking for clues to win ice cream for their cabins!
The campers eventually settled in the gym, in front of a giant screen, for movie night after an epic shaving cream fight. Surprisingly clean after such chaos, the girls brought their coziest blankets, stuffed animals, and pillows. They squealed in celebration when they found out that we were watching Moana and sang along to the soundtrack. Full disclosure, after I left to retrieve their nighttime snack, I could hear them singing from the other side of camp. Sunday ended on the perfect note when everyone came together at the end for our “Goodnight Circle” routine.
Ever since Harry Potter Day, I have been thinking a lot about personality. In the context of Harry Potter, it comes down to which house would I be in? The brave and chivalrous Gryffindor? The friendly and loyal Hufflepuff? The intellectual, witty Ravenclaw? The ambitious, cunning Slytherin? Of course, personality is not so neatly cut between these categories (and that is never how it was originally intended in the series). Still, the diversity of personalities at camp is possibly its greatest treasure. Rockbrook, in particular, is a place where girls from many personalities can fit right in and feel at home. Girls are free to be honest and bold, or shy and peaceful; there are times when outgoing and loud girls let their personalities shine, but also times for quiet contemplation. Today’s agenda displayed how Rockbrook is able to play to all kinds of interests and personalities, and how everyone can find a part of the day that fulfills their needs.
Everyone was looking forward to today, a day that allowed us to sleep in and get some needed rest as we prepared for our final week at camp. We awoke at nine and then went to breakfast in our pajamas. Krispie Kreme donuts were placed on our tables, a favorite Sunday tradition, and then we went back to cabins to get in whities and get ready for chapel.
We stood in a horseshoe shape and raised the flag before quietly reflecting on the walk to chapel. Chapel is one of my favorite spaces and times at camp. So often, camp is loud: singing in the dining hall, cheering on friends on the hill. During chapel, though, we find a peaceful place to reflect on an important theme of camp. Today’s theme was bliss, or the light continuous feeling of happiness. The senior line led chapel this morning, so two girls played guitar as girls filed in. Then, they led song such as ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ (complete with kites as props), ‘Unwritten,’ and ‘Wildflowers.’ The girls spoke about what bliss meant to them and how it related to life at camp.
After chapel, we cleaned cabins and tried to get our belongings organized. Sunday provides a perfect opportunity to reset for the week ahead. Then, we gathered on the hill for another Sunday tradition, Assembly on the Hill. This is a time that is loud where girls and cabins get recognized for their efforts throughout the week. All of the lines sing their line song loudly and then line heads present cabins and individuals with awards. The Mop Award is for the cabin that has the most points from inspection, and the Spirit Award, Manners Award, and Bend-a-Back Award go to individual campers who have been examples of spirit, etiquette, and going above and beyond for others. It is a challenging decision because there are so many reasons every camper could earn each award! Then, all of the mermaids and bull’s-eye club members were honored. Assembly on the Hill is a great time to show your cabin pride and so many girls cheered loudly for their friends as they were honored!
This afternoon, we had Miss RBC. This is a time-honored Rockbrook tradition where cabins gather together to present a short skit, song, or dance in front of the rest of camp. This year, we have asked campers not to use background music (they couldn’t use an iPod) so they had to be more creative and come up with their own music. Their talents were amazing—some cabins performed skits about life in the dining hall; some cabins danced and stomped; some made Rockbrook versions of songs (“We started as Pen Pals, and now we’re besties” was substituted for “So here’s my number, now call me maybe”). This was an event where every girl could get involved. Girls have a lot of practice planning performances because they plan skits most nights during evening program. In our cabin, many girls love dancing, so they were able to patiently teach everyone a dance that everyone agreed on in record time! The performances were met with enthusiastic response for every cabin, and we were all thoroughly entertained while listening to a representative from each cabin answer fun questions like “If you had a pool of Jello, what kind would you jump in and why?”
For twilight tonight, we had a very special event: a string trio and quartet from the Brevard Music Center came to Rockbrook and gave us a performance as we ate dessert! One of the musicians talked about the different periods in musical history (baroque, classical, and romantic), and they played examples of each. Girls had the opportunity to ask about the instruments and the experiences of each musician. Sitting there listening to beautiful music after an action-packed and energy-filled day could not have been a better end to the day. Many girls loved the opportunity to listen to fine music and get lost in their own thoughts as inspired by what was being played. It was a calmer, more contemplative (yet still interactive) way to spend the evening, and it made me appreciate how everyone could take something beautiful away from this day.
We lived a lovely day today. Chapel and the string ensemble gave us time to be contemplative and reflect on all of the action we have lived. Miss RBC and Assembly on the Hill gave us times to be loud and enthusiastic, basking in the spirit of camp. In the coming, final days, we will find other activities that meet our needs. Activities like curosty, needlecraft, and yoga give us a calm space to center ourselves whereas sports and games, swimming, and climbing give us more opportunities to live out loud. At Rockbrook, some girls like to have conversations in small groups whereas others love big groups and being the life of the party. Some girls love crowds and spirit, and others love the calm peace of nature. Most girls love both, which is great, because Rockbrook is able to provide an atmosphere that suits every type of girl and that celebrates every type of personality.